Friday, April 30, 2010

Christie: I'm Not Photogenic, BUT . . .

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knows he's not the most photogenic person in the world.
In fact, the Governor has often told the voters of the Garden State: "I know you didn't elect me for my charm or my matinee idol looks."
But even Christie thinks he may be just a tad better looking than the photo of him (above) that appeared in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer. The photo was part of a story chronicling the Governor's first 100 days in office.
"Did you see that photo in the Inquirer yesterday?" Christie asked a capacity crowd of South Jersey business people at today's Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Voorhees.
"Where did they find that photo? I mean, was that the worst picture ever?"
The Governor said he took the newspaper home and showed it to his wife and four children.
The audience chuckled as Christie told the story of their family's astonishment at the newspaper's choice.
"My daughter said 'Dad, that's the worst picture of you ever.' And then she added: 'And there have been a lot of bad pictures of you.'"
Half jokingly Christie said he's thinking of having a chat with the new owners of the paper which was recently sold to a lender's group as part of a bankruptcy sale.

When Have You 'Made Enough Money'?

President Obama says "I do think at some point you've made enough money."
So, when is that point?
When do you say to a person: "You've made enough money. You can't make any more. That's it."
Does Bill Gates have enough money? Should we stop him from making any more? And what will that mean for Microsoft? For the economy? For America?
Does Donald Trump have enough money? Should we force him out of business?
What about Oprah? She's got a lot of money. Is it enough?
How about Alex Rodriguez? Doesn't he make enough money for playing baseball?
Then there's Bruce Springsteen. No matter how much you like his music, hasn't he made enough money?
Katie Couric. She makes zillions for what she does. Why should she be allowed to earn even one more cent? Isn't it time to cancel her contract?
And how about Obama himself. He made something like four million bucks last year alone. Does he really need all that money? Hasn't he made enough?
Well, when is enough, enough?
And who decides when it's enough?
These are the kinds of questions you can ask and this is what happens when you start to play Obama-style, Democrat class warfare.
If this is the kind of 2010 campaign the President and the Democrats care to conduct, I say: "Bring it on!"
And we'll soon learn when the American people have had enough.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Christie Offers Broad Reform To Lower Taxes

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today delivered the keynote address at the 47th Annual New Jersey Conference of Mayors (NJCM) and proposed a series of realistic and tangible reforms that will protect taxpayers and empower local governments to manage their budgets more effectively.
Spending at the local level has grown at a dramatic pace, surging 69% since 2001, leading to property tax increases of 70% over the same period. Unchecked levels of spending have left New Jersey taxpayers to struggle under the burden of the nation’s highest property taxes, an average of $7,281 a year.
“We can no longer sweep our problems under the rug, nor can we avoid the hard decisions that must be made following years of spending beyond our means,” Governor Christie said. “This set of reforms will empower municipalities and counties to manage budgets more effectively, without placing ever more burdens on the taxpayers of New Jersey.”
Governor Christie’s reform plans address the property tax crisis head on with a proposed constitutional amendment to limit property tax increases to 2.5 percent per year and a set of common sense tools that will allow local governments to provide the services that New Jerseyans expect at an affordable cost.
By empowering local governments with the ability to hold down costs, Governor Christie is providing the tools necessary to deliver real property tax reform and help to make New Jersey a home for growth.

The proposed tool kit includes:

Cap 2.5 Amendment to Limit Property Taxes. Governor Christie is proposing an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution that would limit to 2.5 percent annual increases in property taxes imposed by school districts, municipalities and counties. The constitutional amendment would apply the same limit to growth in spending for state government operations.

Collective Bargaining Reform. Governor Christie has called for changes that prohibit any new labor contract, including all salary and benefits costs, from exceeding a 2.5 percent cap; provide for arbitrator to be selected by the Executive Branch of state government and require the impact on property taxes to be a principal factor in arbitrators’ decisions.

Civil Service Reform. Governor Christie has called for changes to civil service in our state to eliminate obstacles to cost-saving and consolidation and allow for local governments to opt out of civil service altogether.

Employee Benefit Reform. Simply put, New Jersey’s public employee benefit system must move closer to achieving parity with private sector employee benefits. Under legislation Governor Christie recently signed into law, all public employees in New Jersey will contribute at least 1.5 percent of salary toward the cost of their health benefits no later than when their existing contracts expire. This results in an immediate savings of $315 million this year, and an estimated $8 billion over the next 15 years.

Additional Pension Reform. While the recent pension reform bills signed into law last month are a good and encouraging start, the Governor has called for further reform and action. Among other things, additional legislation must roll back the 9 percent increase in pension benefits granted by the Legislature in 2001 for all pension service credit earned in the future, and cap payouts for accumulated sick leave at $15,000 for current as well as future employees to the extent permitted by law.

Red Tape & Unfunded Mandates. One of the Governor’s first actions upon taking office was to sign a series of executive orders, including a freeze on 172 pending rules and regulations that were set to take effect and ordering their review to determine their impact and necessity. Further through executive order, Governor Christie has sought to limit the downpour of additional state mandates by requiring that any new mandate have express authorization from the Governor’s office.

Election Reform. The Governor is proposing legislation to move school board and fire district elections to November. In addition to increasing voter participation in these elections, localities will achieve cost savings associated with no longer administering a stand-alone election in April.

Extending Refund Offset Authority To Local Governments. The Governor has recommended legislation that will allow local governments to offset unpaid property taxes against state gross income tax refunds.

NJCM was founded in 1963 by a group of leading Mayors who believed their collective voices should be heard in Trenton and Washington. NJCM has since become the largest statewide organization in our Nation to exclusively represent the interest of Mayors to the State and Federal Legislatures and Administrations.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No, I Don't Wanna See Your Tattoo!

Summer beckons and soon tattoos will soon be everywhere.
Do you tattoo?
If so, why? Are you trying to make a statement? Is it part of an emotional commitment? Or did you just decide to get tattooed on a whim or a dare?
Whatever the reason, I don’t get it.
Still, it’s obvious to me that others are onto the tattoo craze and the movement seems to be growing among young people.
Even women seem to be getting tattooed at an accelerating rate.
I don’t like it. And others are reacting the same way.
Some companies have now had to adopt policies that either prohibit or place restrictions on visible tattoos, body piercings and other body art.
Even the Marine Corps has banned extra large tattoos below the elbow or the knee lest these spoil the Corps’ spit and polish image.
Who’d have thought it would come to this?
It seems that some people have forgotten that less is more.
Let’s face it, tattoos don’t age very well and the sentiments they express often turn out to be passing, at best.
And speaking of sentiments, the Bible long ago weighed in on body adornment proclaiming: “You shall make gashes in your flesh for the dead or incise any marks on yourself.”
The idea is that your body is the temple of your soul, an instrument on loan from God to contain your essence and you should not deface it.
Makes sense to me.
Yet many people don’t seem to get the message.
Which makes me want to ask them: Why bother with a tattoo when there are kinder, gentler ways to make a statement, demonstrate your love, show your affiliation or remember a loved one?
Besides, some of us would rather not see your tattoos anyway. There are enough in-your-faced sentiments being expressed everywhere we turn. We don’t need anymore.
So here’s my summer plea: Do the world a favor. Think long and hard before you get a tattoo. And if you already have one, cover it up or consider having it removed.

'Hard Struggle' Ahead For Economy

Vanguard Fund founder Jack Bogle is on the radio and he's saying he sees a "hard struggle" ahead for the economy.
Bogle says it's difficult to see really vigorous, robust economic growth anytime soon.
He says that what he calls a recent quick spurt of growth was due largely to temporary factors (such as the new home tax credit) and those factors will disappear.
In short, Bogle does not seem optimistic.
Not a good sign.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Toomey Blasts Specter On Negative Ads

U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey sent the following letter to Senate Arlen Specter, urging him to remove his attack ad targeting Joe Sestak’s military service.

Dear Senator Specter:
It is a clear matter of record that I have very strong disagreements with Congressman Joe Sestak on many important issues affecting the economy, health care, taxes, and even national security. But I also have the utmost respect for his decades of military service to our country. It is highly regrettable that you have chosen to disparage an honorable man’s military service in order to promote your own political career.
Over the years, you have developed a reputation for political attacks ads. I had not even announced my candidacy last spring when you raced out of the blocks with an attack ad that was so wildly inaccurate it was quickly discredited by fact checkers and news organizations. You will recall that your ad was characterized by FactCheck.Org as a “scorched-earth slip-up” and you were forced to remove it from the airwaves.
But now you have stooped to a new low, attacking Congressman Sestak’s thirty-year military service. This is not only insulting to veterans across America who sacrifice so much to protect our nation, but to all Pennsylvanians. Is there no low to which you will not stoop in an attempt to win an election?
Our state’s Democratic primary voters will decide whether they prefer you or Congressman Sestak as their nominee, and that is their right. But it’s pretty clear that there will be two different races in the fall depending on their choice. Joe Sestak and I have already engaged in two spirited, yet civil debates. Pennsylvanians can rightly expect that we would continue in that manner, which is not only respectful to each other, but more importantly, respectful to voters. If you become your new party’s nominee, then it appears that Pennsylvanians will be in for one outrageous or blatantly false attack ad after another. Our state deserves better.
I hope you will do the right thing and remove your attack on Joe Sestak’s military service. And I hope you will pledge to the citizens of our state that should you make it to the general election, you will cease your brand of negative advertising that the Pittsburgh Tribune Review called “embarrassing.”
Pat Toomey

Who Banished Christ's Suffering?

So I'm at Sunday mass today and I once again find myself in a church that seems to have forgotten the suffering of Christ.
Yes, it is a Catholic church. But the idea of Christ suffering on the cross has pretty much been banished here.
Behind the alter there is a large cross -- a cross that appropriately dominates the church.
But the cross does not feature the corpus -- the suffering body of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
Instead, we see the risen Christ emerging from the cross with his arms outstretched, welcoming all.
Increasingly, this seems to be the norm in American Catholic churches, especially newer churches.
Yes, I understand that there would be no Catholic church if Christ has not arisen from the dead.
I get it.
But the suffering of Christ is central to the faith.
Christ's suffering inspires us, teaches us, gives us strength and urges us onward beyond this life to salvation and to eternal life.
For the faithful, it reminds us that Christ suffered and dies for us.
For those of other faiths and non-believers, it defines one of the central lessons of the Church.
I'm trying to figure out how and when the suffering Christ began to disappear.
Did the depiction of Christ nailed to the cross somehow become too graphic, too intense, too unpleasant for Catholics to bear? Was it too bloody, too messy? Was Christ too scantily clad? Did someone decide it was all too scary for young people? Did someone think this might be a good way to sanitize the church? Was it all part of a path toward "feel good" Catholicism?
I don't know.
I don't have the answer.
I only know that it happened.
And I know that I don't like it.
Something tells me that this new cross is homogenized, scrubbed, neutral, and ultimately empty.
This trend is not good for the Church and it ought to be stopped before it goes any further.
It's time to bring back Christ on the cross, suffering and dying for our sins.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

NFL Draft: It's ONLY A Game

Watching all the coverage of the NFL draft picks, I'm left to wonder: What's the Big Deal?
Well, yeah -- I understand that a helluva lot of $$$ and the future of the teams are involved.
But football is a game. It's just a game. Get it?
Yet now it seems it's more than a game and more than just a huge business.
Now it's a Big Deal show.
Yes, it's a show. It's entertainment.
And the recruited players are primed to perform.
So, as you're watching it all it's as if you're watching a big, continuous reality show. And it's got all the elements of a reality show: the laughter, the tears, the sense of suspense (such as there is) and whatever surprises and unexpected elements go along with it.
And then of course there are all the commentators who make a fortune off of all of this -- all the talking heads. Among these are many former athletes and big-time NFL types.
Many of these were once recruits themselves.
So, the whole thing is self-perpetuating and incestuous.
Those who are being drafted today may one day be commentators themselves -- after their playing days are over and before their bones and muscles are completely shot to hell.
Like most big, splashy, showy businesses (the circus comes to mind) this is all cyclical.
Some people have compared it to politics.
But let's not forget that politics has consequences.
Elections have consequences.
In politics, there are real life, real time results that impact the daily lives of people like you and me. Depending on elections outcomes, we are granted or are denied fredoms, money goes into or comes out of our paychecks.
Politics may look like a game and politicians may seem to be playing a game but elections ain't no game.
Football IS a game. It's. Only. A. Game.
And the NFL draft is nothing but a show to promote the game.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kean On Vote: Reopen Contract Talks

New Jersey Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean issued the following comments regarding the results of yesterday’s NJ school board elections:
“The electorate has clearly spoken by defeating 54 percent of school budgets across the state. Union locals should rethink their positions and reopen negotiations in those districts where the budgets failed.
“Accepting a one-year pay freeze will save tax dollars, school programs and teacher’s jobs. It is not too late to reach common-sense solutions to the budget woes affecting us all.
“I hope that in the aftermath of this election cooler heads will prevail. In order to arrive at a result acceptable to all parties we must work together to continue to provide a quality education to our children at a cost affordable by the taxpayers.”

WOW: 60% Of NJ School Budgets Nixed!

The New Jersey School Boards Association says that that 58.7 percent of the 537 school budgets voted on Tuesday were defeated.
That means that nearly six out of every ten budgets were defeated by the voters.
This is now a higher figure than the 54% estimate that was given out last night.
Overnight, as more budget votes were reported, things got worse for the teachers' union (the NJEA) and their cronies.
Understand this: People are angry.
They're in the mood to slash budgets and throw the rascals out.
In fact, if ordinary New Jersey voters were actually sitting in the State Legislature right now, we might actually begin to see some fiscal sanity.
Will the outrage continue and carry us to even more change and upheaval in November? One would have to hope so.
But don't make any assumptions.
The vested interests, the special interests, the powers that be know that they're in trouble. And they will do anything and everything to survive -- to keep the green trail flowing; to keep their cushy jobs; to keep bilking the taxpayers.
Be alert, New Jersey!
The battle has just begun.

New Jersey: Weirdly, Healthfully Disagreeable

In case you haven't already noticed, New Jersey is a weird and funny state.
New Jersey voters do not have the right of initiative and referendum. In other words, they can't initiate public questions, put them on the ballot and vote "yes" or "no" on them, thus making them law or rejecting them. The residents of most states can do this. New Jerseyans can't.
And recalling a public official is almost impossible in New Jersey due to the high number of names voters must gather on a petition.
But in New Jersey, the voters have one unusual right that they sometimes like to exercise: They have the right to accept or reject local school budgets.
They can vote "yes" or "no" on these budgets.
Yesterday, more people voted on New Jersey school budgets than ever before.
Yesterday, a majority of the school budgets were defeated.
Yesterday, a record number of school board members were turned out of office.
Yesterday represented the biggest defeat for school budgets in 34 years!
What happened?
Quite simply, the taxpayers have had enough and they're speaking loudly and clearly.
This is a strong and powerful message to the high-salaried school superintendents and ubiquitous administrators, the intractable teachers' union and other union thugs, the tax-and-spend school boards and school district apologists, and all those big-spending state legislators and public officials at every level, including county and municipal office-holders and their political bosses.
New Jersey is tired of paying the highest property taxes in the nation. It's tired of carrying America's greatest tax burden.
The runaway spending must end.
The waste and mismanagement must end.
The giveaways must end.
And the automatic annual pay hikes and attendant tax hikes must end.
We dumped Corzine. We voted down the budgets. We won't listen to the same old excuses.
Governor Chris Christie and the people of New Jersey have had enough.
And the people of New Jersey are now on the march.
Get. Out. Of. The. Way.

George Strait Sets Astounding Record!

Country music star George Strait has set a Billboard record.
The trade magazine said Tuesday that the country legend is the first act to hit the top 10 on any Billboard chart for 30 straight years.
The song that set the record was "I Gotta Get You," which has reached No. 9 on Billboard's top country songs list.
Strait's first country top 10 hit was in 1981, with "Unwound," and he has cracked the top 10 every year since then. His latest hit is his 82nd top 10 country hit.

N'tl. GOP Sees Runyan 'On The Radar'

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has officially announced Jon Runyan (NJ-03) as an ‘On the Radar’ candidate, an important first step in its Young Guns program.
Founded in the 2007-2008 election cycle by Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Young Guns program is a member-driven organization dedicated to electing open-seat and challenger candidates nationwide.
Runyan is running in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District, a seat that is currently held by Democrat incumbent John Adler, an out-of-touch career politician who is more concerned with toeing his party line than serving the constituents he was elected to represent.
The Young Guns program is designed to assist Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in accomplishing goals and benchmarks throughout the election cycle focused on the fundamentals of a winning campaign. By reaching ‘On the Radar’ status, Runyan has already proven his ability to build a successful campaign structure and achieve important fundraising goals.

“The NRCC is committed to working with Jon Runyan as he continues to meet the rigorous goals of the Young Guns program,” said NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions. “Jon is an accomplished and conservative leader, who will fight to create jobs and rein in government spending. I am confident that Republicans will be successful in our run against John Adler, a loyal Democrat who has repeatedly put his partisan agenda before a healthy economy.”

Runyan is an accomplished leader both on and off the football field who brings tenacity and dedication to all of his endeavors.
Whether it’s leading his football team to a Super Bowl appearance as a Pro-Bowl offensive tackle, volunteering, or studying Entrepreneurial Management at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania’ Wharton School of Business, Runyan’s work ethic has always led him to victory. In addition to his exploits on the football field, Runyan is also an on-air analyst and personality for various radio and TV stations. He is an avid and passionate volunteer, helping with countless charities and serving as a Board Member for the Alzheimer’s Association of the Delaware Valley and a five-time host of his own “Score for the Cure” Golf Tournament benefiting prostate cancer research in New Jersey.
Having achieved certain benchmarks to place him on the road to victory, Jon Runyan now faces a new set of rigorous goals that will help him advance to the next level of the Young Guns program and help him build a competitive, effective and winning campaign.

Another Specter Flip-Flop: Ideological Judges

Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak’s race to the left continues! And of course that means, another hypocritical switch for Arlen Specter.
Monday, in an appearance at the Pennsylvania Press Club, Specter said President Obama should consider ideology when picking retiring Justice John Paul Stevens’ replacement. The nominee, he said, needs to “compete with Justice Scalia on the ideological battlefield,” (, 04 19 10).
But in 2004 and 2005, then-Republican Arlen Specter sang a very different tune, declaring on CBS’ Face the Nation: “The fact is that I have supported all of President Bush’s nominees in committee and on the floor. I have never applied a litmus test,” (Toledo Blade, 11/07/04).
Then in October 2005 Specter said: “I don't believe that you ought to make a decision on a Supreme Court nominee based on a litmus test. I'm pro-choice, but I voted for Justice Scalia, I voted for Chief Justice Rehnquist although he voted against Roe versus Wade. I think that takes much too narrow a view. The jurisprudence is important and the jurisprudence is complicated.” (ABC News, 10/09/05)
“As Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak ratchet up their race to the left, Arlen Specter is abandoning the principles and policies he claimed to believe in before he switched political parties,” said Toomey Communications Director Nachama Soloveichik. “It is no surprise that Pennsylvanians all across the Commonwealth are rejecting Specter’s political opportunism in favor of Pat Toomey’s principled fiscal responsibility and commitment to hardworking families.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Budget Rejected In Cherry Hill, Many Other Towns

In South Jersey, Cherry Hill Township's voters, once noted for routinely approving ever-rising school expenditures appear to have rejected the community's school budget in today's election.
And Cherry Hill is not alone.
Throughout South Jersey and across the state, voters are saying "No!" to runaway spending and high taxes by voting down school budge.s
So far school budgets have been defeated in Vorhees, Woodbury, Laurel Springs, Maple Shade, Medford, Medford Lakes, Stratford, Voorhees, Woodbury, Monroe, Delran, Eveshan, Cinnaminson, Haddon Township, Eastern Regional, Nutley, Butler, Hanover Regional, Harding, Montville, Pequannock, Roxbury, Dunnelen, Jamesburg, Milltown, Bedminster, Bernards, Bound Brook, Branchburg,Bridgewater-Raritan, Franklin, Green Brook, Hillborough, Manville, Montgomery, Somerville, South Bound Brook, Alexandria, Bethlehem, Califon, Clinton, Delaware, East Amwell, Franklin (Hunterdon), Hampton, High Bridge, Holland, Kingwood, Lebanon Township, Readington, Stockton, Union Township, West Deptford, Palmyra, National Park, Wenonah, Westville, Hainesport, Rancocas Valley, and many other towns.
The NO verdicts from the voters are coming in so fast we almost can't keep up with them.
More tomorrow!


The polls in New Jersey open at 2 PM today and will remain open till 9 PM.
This is your chance to vote on the school budget in your town.
New Jersey's State/Local Tax Burden Highest in Nation
Estimated at 11.8% of income, New Jersey's state/local tax burden percentage is the highest in the country, well above the national average of 9.7%. New Jersey taxpayers pay $6,610 per capita in state and local taxes.
New Jersey Property Taxes: Highest Per Capita in the Nation
New Jersey is one of the 37 states that collect property taxes at both the state and local levels. As in most states, local governments collect far more. New Jersey's localities collected $2,372.03 per capita in property taxes in fiscal year 2006, which is the latest year the Census Bureau published state-by-state property tax collections. At the state level, New Jersey collected $0.40 in property taxes during FY 2006, making its combined state/local property taxes $2,372.43 per capita, New Jersey's combined per capita collections were the highest in the nation.
The runaway taxing and spending must end.
Today will provide you with one of your only chances to speak out against this nonsense.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

'Joe Democrat' Turns Republican

Here's an actual note that we received in our comments section from someone who simply identifies himself as 'Joe Democrat.' We think it's worth repeating here:
I left NJ about four years ago after living there all of my life. I couldn't afford the property taxes anymore, especially after I lost my job.
NJ is a nice state as far as it's beauty, at least in most of the suburban, exurban, and country areas. I lived in the mountains of northwest NJ and loved it. I also loved the shore during the summer. Unfortunately, there's been something rotten in NJ for a very long time.
I'm a lifelong Democrat who hopes that Mr. Christie succeeds. I would have voted for him against the corrupt Corzine.
I'll be changing my political affiliation to Republican soon here in Florida. Democrats have no sense of fiscal responsibility. Some Republicans have the same problem.
My hope is that all those in politics that only worry about themselves without considering the prosperity of this great country as a whole, get booted out of office.
Mr. Christie seems to have his head on straight, and I wish him the best.

Stella Pizza And Parc On Rittenhouse

During our recent visits to center city Philadelphia we had a chance to visit two popular restaurants that are part of the Starr Restaurant Group.

The first was the big, sprawling French-inspired Parc on Rittenhouse Square.
We made reservations for Parc on a Saturday night and arrived with another couple. We knew it would be crowded, and it was. It was teeming with diners.
But our reservation was honored promptly, without a hitch.
When we made the reservation we asked to sit at a table by a window, preferably overlooking the Square. Once again, we were perfectly accommodated.
It was a beautiful spring evening and our view of the Square showcased flowering trees, shrubs and tulips along with the bright, beguiling first greens of the season.
The service at Parc was seamless. The meal was perfectly paced. The decor seems so authentic, down to the last detail that you would actually think you were in a brasserie in Paris.
People had warned us that this place would be loud. Well, it wasn't quiet but our conversation wasn't in the least bit affected by the cacophony of sounds around us. It was fine.
Everyone at Parc is so attentive and so anxious to please. In fact, the restaurant manager actually came to our table several times to make sure everything was fine. Not only did we have no complaints but we gave him nothing but raves.
Do I have to say that the food was out-of-this-world wonderful? Do I?
Well, it was. Spinach ravioli. Escargots. Strip steak. Pommes frites. Trout amandine. Roasted salmon. All absolutely wonderful. And for dessert: A dreamy apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream.
Every dish was memorable.
And -- best of all -- no rush and no hurry. We were given plenty of time to savor every portion of the evening, including our martinis and our coffee.
As far as we're concerned, Parc is the jewel in the crown of Stephen Starr's culinary empire.
C'est magnifique!

Less than a week later we found ourselves at Pizzeria Stella in Old City.
Stella produces fresh, classic, thin-crusted, personal pizzas (12 inches in diameter) as part of a limited menu. The restaurant sits on an attractive corner near Headhouse Square.
The place is simple inside, a combination of country Italian with modern touches.
If you go, you'll want to arrive early and try to get a window table facing the Headhouse area which is very much like a piazza. Or, weather permitting, you may want to sit outside.
House wines are excellent and are served in Libby ("Made in the USA") half tumblers. It's almost as if your Italian immigrant grandpa made the wine himself and poured it into a simple kitchen glass just for you.
The red pizza sauce is slightly sweet and the mozzarella is light -- slices dabbed strategically on the margherita pizza. The white pizza features several varieties of cheese and the aroma of fresh olive oil permeates the pies. The crust is more chewy than crispy but appealing nonetheless.
Actually, the pizza at Stella is very similar to the pizza at Lamberti's Tutti Toscani on Brace Road in nearby Cherry Hill. But here's the deal: the Lamberti pie is actually better. It's crispier and not as oily. And the Lamberti pie is a better bargain.
But the Stella pizza still sets a new standard for center city Philadelphia. And, Stella is cozy and inviting.

Philly 'Tea Party' Huge Success

Do any of these people look like anarchists or terrorists?

Is there something wrong with expressing your views in an open forum?
Joey Vento (below) doesn't seem to think so.

These fired-up citizens have no intenion of disappearing.
And November will be here before you know it.

Yesterday was a great day in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia as more than 1,000 ordinary citizens and taxpayers turned out for the Take Back Congress Rally sponsored by the Independence Hall Tea Party Association.
The great Joey Vento of Geno's Steaks was there along with many area congressional candidates who are seeking to replace the incumbent members of Congress who got us into our current mess.
Joey had no notes or prepared remarks. A successful businessman and self-made American success story, he speaks from the heart - honestly and forthrightly.
Among the candidates who spoke were South Jersey congressional candidates Dale Glading and Jon Runyan. Both are very impressive challengers.
The rally was fun, boisterous, invigorating and blessedly peaceful.
As I walked through the crowd and chatted with the participants I found that these people are proud, hard-working Americans and weary taxpayers. They are friendly, remarkably well-informed and admirably engaged in the civic affairs of their towns, cities, states and the nation as a whole.
They understand what the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are all about. They know that our founders intended for us to have limited interference from the national government under a federal system of shared power and numerous checks and balances.
They realize that things are not working out as expected.
They want their country back.
And they're very, very determined.

Christie's Gallant Mission To Save Jersey

The Wall Street Journal's James Freeman writes on the remarkable efforts of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to transform the state:
Christie is on a mission to make New Jersey competitive once again in the contest to attract people and capital. During last fall's campaign, while his opponent obliquely criticized Mr. Christie's size, some Republicans worried that their candidate was squishy—that he wasn't serious about cutting spending and reining in taxes. Turns out they were wrong. Listen to Mr. Christie's take on the state of his state: "We are, I think, the failed experiment in America—the best example of a failed experiment in America—on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times." New Jersey's residents now suffer under the nation's highest tax burden. Yet the tax hikes haven't come close to matching increases in spending. Mr. Christie recently introduced a $29.3 billion state budget to eliminate a projected $11 billion deficit for fiscal year 2011. California and New York have attracted headlines for their budget woes. Yet, as Mr. Christie points out, "Their problems are much smaller than ours as a percentage. [Gov.] David Paterson's talking about an $8.2 billion deficit in New York—I only wish." After taking office in January, Mr. Christie declared an official state of emergency. This allowed him to freeze $2.2 billion in spending that had already been authorized. Now he needs a Democratic legislature to turn his freeze into an actual cut and to enact the deeper reductions contained in his 2011 budget. . . .
"I'm a product of public schools in New Jersey," Mr. Christie explains, "and I have great admiration for people who commit their lives to teaching, but this isn't about them. This is about a union president who makes $265,000 a year, and her executive director who makes $550,000 a year. This is about a union that has been used to getting its way every time. And they have intimidated governors for the last 30 years." While the state lost 121,000 jobs last year, education jobs in local school districts soared by more than 11,000.
Over the past eight years, according to Mr. Christie, K-12 student enrollment has increased 3% while education jobs have risen by more than 16%. The governor believes cuts in aid to local schools in his budget could be entirely offset if existing teachers would forgo scheduled raises and agree to pay 1.5% of their medical insurance bill for one year, just as new state employees will be required to do every year.
A new Rasmussen poll found that 65% of New Jersey voters agree with him about a one-year pay freeze for teachers. But the teachers union wants to close the budget gap by raising the income tax rate on individuals and small businesses making over $400,000 per year to 10.75% from its current 8.97%. Mr. Christie doesn't think that state and local budget problems can be fixed without tackling education spending. That's because the state has a hybrid system in which local property taxes fund schools and some of the money is redistributed by the state from affluent areas to poorer communities. According to Mr. Christie, New Jersey taxpayers are spending $22,000 per student in the Newark school system, yet less than a third of these students graduate, proving that more money isn't the answer to better performance. He favors more student choice is, which is why he's ramping up approvals for charter schools. On another front, Mr. Christie is seeking a ballot measure this fall that would amend the state's constitution to limit increases in local property taxes to 2.5% annually. To put this question before voters he needs to win over three-fifths of the state legislature and expects legislators to vote in May or June. Will New Jersey send a message across the country that state government can be turned around without federal bailouts? "We're such a long way away from a message," Mr. Christie says, "because, you know, the message might be, 'Look at that poor SOB. There he is lying dead on State Street in Trenton. It's over. OK, everybody back to our corners and let's go back to the normal game.' . . . I hope, that if we're successful, [the message] can be . . . that you can do this."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

School Budgets: Vote 'NO!' On Tuesday!

New Jersey's State/Local Tax Burden Highest in Nation
Estimated at 11.8% of income, New Jersey's state/local tax burden percentage is the highest in the country, well above the national average of 9.7%. New Jersey taxpayers pay $6,610 per capita in state and local taxes.
New Jersey Property Taxes: Highest Per Capita in the Nation
New Jersey is one of the 37 states that collect property taxes at both the state and local levels. As in most states, local governments collect far more. New Jersey's localities collected $2,372.03 per capita in property taxes in fiscal year 2006, which is the latest year the Census Bureau published state-by-state property tax collections. At the state level, New Jersey collected $0.40 in property taxes during FY 2006, making its combined state/local property taxes $2,372.43 per capita, New Jersey's combined per capita collections were the highest in the nation.
The runaway taxing and spending must end.
Tuesday will provide you with one of your only chances to speak out against this nonsense.

Friday, April 16, 2010

NJ: Rosenzweig Withdraws Name For DOCF

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced today that Dr. Janet Rosenzweig has withdrawn her name from consideration to become the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families.
With regret, Governor Christie today accepted her withdrawal from consideration.
“I want to sincerely thank Janet for her service and dedication to our state’s children, for whom she is obviously a zealous advocate,” the Governor said. “I am proud of the nomination I made, and I wish Janet the best in her professional career.”
In a letter to the Governor, Dr. Rosenzweig, who is stepping down as Acting Commissioner effective today, explained her decision. The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Governor Christie:
I respectfully and regretfully withdraw my name for further consideration for confirmation as the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families.
The effort required to continue in that process is distracting from the important work of this department.
It has been my pleasure to serve your administration and the people of New Jersey for this brief period of time.
I wish the best for your administration and particularly for the 7,000 public servants working to make the New Jersey Department of Children and Families a model of excellence in providing safety, permanence and well-being for the children of this state.

From the Newark-Star Ledger and

[Questions had arisen over] Rosenzweig's work at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. At her hearing [last] month, some senators suggested the group had taken too passive a stance on the issue of sex between adults and children.
Although she was executive director, Rosenzweig said she worked part time at the society and did not handle policy or research. Repeatedly questioned, she said: "I am unequivocally opposed to sexual encounters between adults and children. In fact, I have spent my career working to ensure that doesn’t happen."
[Sen. Christopher "Kip"] Bateman . . . said the Senate wants to know more about her job at the organization. "They have a pretty open, liberal policy about sex," he said. "I’m not saying that’s her position. But I think that’s what some of my colleagues want to ask about." . . .
Christie said he expected Rosenzweig, Hal Wirths, his Labor Department nominee -- and all of his cabinet picks -- to face a "rigorous" confirmation process.
"If they can't stand up to rigorous examination by the judiciary committee in the state Senate, then they probably aren't going to be able to stand up to the rigorous duties of running a major department in state government," the governor said.

Joe Azzolina, An American Success Story

New Jersey Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, a USN Retired Captain who served in the State Senate and General Assembly representing New Jersey’s 13th district passed away yesterday evening at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in New York with his sons Joseph, John and Gregg at his bedside. He was 84.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said: "“Mary Pat and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Joe Azzolina late yesterday. A veteran, businessman, father and husband, Joe was also a friend and dedicated public servant who will be greatly missed. Our prayers are with the Azzolina family today.”
Azzolina was first elected to the State Assembly in 1965, and re-elected in 1967 and 1969. He was elected to the State Senate in 1971. After losing his bid for a second term in 1973, Azzolina returned to the Assembly in 1985. After unsuccessful State Senate and Congressional runs in the late 1980s, Azzolina was elected for a third tenure in the State Assembly in 1991, where he stayed until 2005. Azzolina, a Middletown resident, succeeded in business, government, and military service. A self-made entrepreneur, building upon the business principles he learned at the small corner grocery store opened by his Italian immigrant parents John and Angelina in 1927. He was the founder of Food Circus Supermarkets, Inc. operating 10 SuperFoodtown stores in Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex Counties.

As a retired U.S. Naval Captain, Azzolina’s military career was vast and distinguished. He enlisted as an apprentice seaman at the age of 18 and attained the rank of Captain in 1978; he officially retired in 1986. During his 42 years of service in Navy and the Navy Ready Reserves, Azzolina served on active duty aboard the cruisers USS Albany, USS Portsmouth, USS Toledo and the USS New Jersey. Azzolina served as Chairman of the state’s USS NJ Battleship Commission, and has been credited for preserving the most decorated warship in U.S. history as a museum and memorial. He also attended the National and Naval War Colleges and served at the Naval Earle Weapons Station in Colts Neck and Leonardo Pier.

Vote 'NO!' On NJ School Budgets

Jersey voters get to vote on their school budgets one week from today - Tuesday, April 20.
I'll be voting 'No!'
It's not that I don't care about schools. It's not that I don't care about kids. I care deeply about both.
But school budgets climb year after year and they represent the bulk of our property taxes - the nation's highest property taxes.
As I've detailed here on this blog, school budgets are bloated. Many school superintendents receive ridiculously high salaries and huge benefits. Furthermore, districts are weighed down with highly paid administrators and functionaries -- bureaucrats and paper pushers. The record has shown that these fiefdoms continue to hire more and more employees, far in excess of any growth in the school population. It's outrageous and it's got to end!
In fact, across the board, politicians must get the message that enough is enough.
And voting 'NO' on the school budget is one of the only ways we have to get the message across - it's one of our only vehicles to drive the point home.
New Jersey is grossly overtaxed. We must spend less.
So much money is wasted at all levels of government that we must demand thrift and accountability.
Every board, agency, commission - every elected official - must hear our voice loud and clear. Until we use our muscle at the ballot box, nothing will change.
Send a message - vote 'NO' on Tuesday!

WJC To Obama: Appeasment Doesn't Work

The World Jewish Congress tells Barack Obama, “Appeasement doesn’t work.”

Dear President Obama:

I write today as a proud American and a proud Jew.

Jews around the world are concerned today. We are concerned about the nuclear ambitions of an Iranian regime that brags about its genocidal intentions against Israel. We are concerned that the Jewish state is being isolated and delegitimized.

Mr. President, we are concerned about the dramatic deterioration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel.

The Israeli housing bureaucracy made a poorly timed announcement and your Administration branded it an “insult.” This diplomatic faux pas was over the fourth stage of a seven stage planning permission process – a plan to build homes years from now in a Jewish area of Jerusalem that under any peace agreement would remain an integral part of Israel.

Our concern grows to alarm as we consider some disturbing questions. Why does the thrust of this Administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks? After all, it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who refuse to negotiate.

Israel has made unprecedented concessions. It has enacted the most far reaching West Bank settlement moratorium in Israeli history.

Israel has publicly declared support for a two-state solution. Conversely, many Palestinians continue their refusal to even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

The conflict’s root cause has always been the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Every American President who has tried to broker a peace agreement has collided with that Palestinian intransigence, sooner or later. Recall President Clinton’s anguish when his peace proposals were bluntly rejected by the Palestinians in 2000. Settlements were not the key issue then. They are not the key issue now.

Another important question is this: what is the Administration’s position on Israel’s borders in any final status agreement? Ambiguity on this matter has provoked a wave of rumors and anxiety. Can it be true that America is no longer committed to a final status agreement that provides defensible borders for Israel? Is a new course being charted that would leave Israel with the indefensible borders that invited invasion prior to 1967?

There are significant moves from the Palestinian side to use those indefensible borders as the basis for a future unilateral declaration of independence. How would the United States respond to such a reckless course of action?

And what are America’s strategic ambitions in the broader Middle East? The Administration’s desire to improve relations with the Muslim world is well known. But is friction with Israel part of this new strategy? Is it assumed worsening relations with Israel can improve relations with Muslims? History is clear on the matter: appeasement does not work. It can achieve the opposite of what is intended.

And what about the most dangerous player in the region? Shouldn’t the United States remain focused on the single biggest threat that confronts the world today? That threat is a nuclear armed Iran. Israel is not only America’s closest ally in the Middle East, it is the one most committed to this Administration’s declared aim of ensuring Iran does not get nuclear weapons.

Mr. President, we embrace your sincerity in your quest to seek a lasting peace. But we urge you to take into consideration the concerns expressed above. Our great country and the tiny State of Israel have long shared the core values of freedom and democracy. It is a bond much treasured by the Jewish people. In that spirit I submit, most respectfully, that it is time to end our public feud with Israel and to confront the real challenges that we face together.

Yours sincerely,
Ronald S. Lauder
World Jewish Congress

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dan Goes On A 'Useless Rant'?

Deric L. Adger of Philadelphia has written this about me in a letter to the Philadelphia Daily News:

Op-ed writer Daniel Cirucci is so perturbed by the use of phrases like "sounds like a plan" and "bottom line" that he felt the need to go on a useless rant about it?
Maybe he should just stay in the house and avoid all human contact. I'd be sure to give him a "shout out," though, from the non-elite!

Here's my response:
Deric, sometimes I do go on rants. Sometimes I can't help myself. I'm just a passionate guy. I feel strongly about things -- all kinds of things.
But I don't regard my rants as "useless," Deric.
After all, I did manage to get a response from you. I did manage to rouse you. So, it wasn't useless.
And, I like the fact that you took the time to write to the newspaper and comment on what I said. I respect and appreciate your input.
But no, I'm not gonna stay home.
If you read this blog, you do know that I like to get around.
And, it's OK. You can give me a "shout out" as I happen to consider myself a non-elite as well.
All the best,

Tax Day In Joisey: Dreary, Indeed!

New Jersey State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-13) issued the following statement on today’s status as ‘Tax Day,’ the deadline for filing New Jersey and federal income taxes:
“While taxpayers across America shoulder the growing expense of federal government together, the citizens of New Jersey stand virtually alone in bearing an immense state and local tax burden that is far greater than that of our countrymen.”
Kyrillos noted that a recent study by the non-partisan Tax Foundation shows that New Jersey has the second highest state and local tax burden per capita in the country. Correspondingly, the Tax Foundation also found that residents of New Jersey have the second latest “Tax Freedom Day” in the country. With a Tax Freedom Day of April 25, New Jersey residents must work nearly one-third of the year, 115 days, just to pay their federal, state and local tax bills.
“While most of the country has already celebrated Tax Freedom Day, New Jersey residents have to put in another ten days of work before they can start earning for themselves,” added Kyrillos. “It’s time that New Jersey taxpayers throw off their shackles and place them on governments that have long spent too freely.”

Christie Doesn't Know Where He's Going

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie often doesn't know where he's going.
And even when he does know where he's headed, Christie doesn't know how to get there.
Now, this may or may not surprise you.
Or, it may actually concern you.
After all, Christie is in charge of one of the nation's most productive and most populous states.
But if Christie isn't concerned about this, why should you be?
And he isn't concerned.
In fact, the Governor freely admits that he's clueless as to where he's headed.
"My sense of direction is awful," Christie told a group of Philadelphia business leaders yesterday. "Somebody asked me exactly where in Philadelphia were we headed today," he told a Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce confab at The Bellevue on Broad and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia. "I said I didn't know, just somewhere in Philly," Christie explained.
"When the car stops and a New Jersey State Trooper opens the door, I know I am where I'm supposed to be. That's the way it is for me now," said Christie who's been in office for about three months.
Yes, it's nice having your own driver and your own police escort. In that case, you really don't have to know exactly where you're going.
But even when the Governor has to drive himself, he's still hopelessly lost.
"When I'm driving and I come to a corner, my instincts sometimes tell me to turn right," he explained.
"But then I figure that my directional instincts are often wrong so I want to turn left. Then again, I'm asking myself: 'Why not turn right, after all?' That's how confused I am."
Now, tell the truth: What real guy doesn't have a dreadful sense of direction?
But how many guys would admit as much?
Must guys are notorious for wandering aimlessly without asking for help.
Not Christie.
He not only admits that he doesn't know where he's going but he also freely welcomes all the assistance he can get to help him get where he's going.
And within the Governor's self-effacing hyperbole lies an important lesson.
This is a guy who's confident in the knowledge that he's facing a huge task and he needs all the help he can get.
That's why he's got a great team surrounding him.
That's why all options (except those dreaded, destructive tax hikes) are on the table.
That's why he's willing to listen to the ideas of others and learn as much as he can.
That's why he'll copy successful ideas and strategies from other states to get New Jersey's spending under control, eliminate waste, cut taxes and get the Garden State's economic engine humming again.
And that's why he was in Philadelphia yesterday with the city's top business leaders seeking their help and support.
Christie is not only a quick learner but he's also irrepressibly human. And he isn't afraid to make a joke on himself if it will make a connection or build a bond with folks who can help.
"Thanks for letting me come over the bridge today without a visa," Christie told the assembled Pennsylvanians.
But the truth is that no visa was needed.
Such is the burgeoning appeal of New Jersey's engaging new Governor that he's welcomed wherever people seek a refreshing change from politics as usual.
Governor, wherever you're going, we're following!

Runyan: Adler Is High-Taxing Hypocrite

Jon Corzine with the man who Runyan calls his "rubber stamp," John Adler (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

NJ3 congressional candidate Jon Runyan went on the attack yesterday after John Adler issued a press release “decrying the fiscal mess and property tax crush in New Jersey that Adler himself created during his 16 years in Trenton as a powerful State Senator.”

Said Runyan in his own press release issued Wednesday:

“John Adler didn’t bother to address the property tax crisis in New Jersey during his 16 years in Trenton, but now he’s going to fix it from Washington?, What a joke! This shameless hypocrisy on the part of Congressman Adler is frankly why everyday taxpayers can’t stand career politicians who constantly talk out of both sides of their mouth. The sheer nerve it takes to even make an announcement like this with a straight face is stunning.

John Adler voted in favor of every, single tax, spend and borrow State Budget put in front of him by Jim McGreevey and Jon Corzine . The same state budgets that made this state unaffordable for residents, drove jobs out of state, gave us one of the worst climates for business in the country and pushed state government to the brink of bankruptcy. No poll-tested, election-year proposal, that he has no intention of implementing, is going to change these facts.”

The release adds that “in just his final six years in Trenton, Adler voted to raise taxes 43 times, while increasing state spending by $11 billion—a 50% increase.”

You can see a list of those bills on Runyan’s website.